They’re Gone

They’re Gone. Trilliums and other lilies won’t be back to until spring 2021. Sounds strange doesn’t it?

So who’s gone? The lilies. Ils sont partis! Some rain, some wind, poof, not there anymore. Come again next year. This morning was a gusty day. With the wind rumbling in one ear, looking up showed the trees bending in the opposite direction as the wind on the ground. Aircraft, on a well-executed final approach to the nearby airport where we walk, suddenly found themselves trying to land downwind. This old pilot found myself looking up and muttering “Go ‘round, go around.” A Fedex flight forced its way on down. That’s awfully hard on the airplane, especially if you bend it. But commerce first, that’s what got us into this Covid mess. It’s another one of those pandemic days. Many of us seem to be making weird decisions. But in the woods berries are forming and any day now, the first wild roses will begin to appear. The planet’s life cycle goes on; whether we like it or not.

Bucky has breakfast. It is amazing to watch what, how much and how fast they munch.
For every one we see, there are dozens we miss.
Outstanding in his pond. It is difficult to take a bad photo of a heron.

After writing a blog, I usually let it sit for a little while, rather like making bread. Then I edit it, punch it down, and let it sit again. I don’t work under any deadline although sometimes I pretend I do and see what I can turn out in short order. Working under pressure can be a good thing. The last blog I posted was not a careless effort. My remarks, both about government and environmentalism, were a bit polemic and on the edge of being rants instead of simple amusement. In fact, I let it sit and ferment for a few days before deciding not to rip it apart and flush the whole thing. Finally the upload button was pushed. Then a few more typos appeared; it never fails.

Hooker’s Fairybell and an earwig.
The tattooed biker was a big man but he could not outlive the name his mother had given him: Hooker Fairybell.

In this time of special duress, I feel my best effort is comic relief. I certainly do not want to offend anyone. I want to help dispel anger and frustration, not add to what is already heaping up out there. But, that which has some folks doubled in laughter renders others livid with indignation. So, stir the pot, and review what you’ve got. Do your best, screw the rest. If you’re going to put it in writing be prepared to stand behind it, not like some politicians.

Arbutus Man. I suddenly spotted this wonderful carving while driving through nearby Chemainus. It marks a driveway and is executed in the trunk of a dead and seasoned arbutus tree.
T & J. Are they still together? Do they have children? Maple and moss, their love was not lost.

Now here’s a horrifying thought. Imagine finally winning a big lottery prize and sprinting off to the lottery office. There you find that to claim your winnings, you must first produce a receipt for your ticket. Well golly! Nobody told me that! I’ll just go buy tickets for another forty years. That’s a story I learned yesterday for a lady selling me a ticket. In these tense times, there are plenty of obstreperous people out there. “No, you didn’t win.” When push comes to shove we’re all at least a bit grumpy living under this overcast of doubt, and gloom and threat.

Miner’s Lettuce.
Found in thick beds, miner’s lettuce is a delicious wild green and makes a great salad.
A Field of Rape and Onions. Some images demand to be taken. Although it looks like somewhere near Yuma, AZ it is on a backroad here on Vancouver Island.

If some cheerless sonafabitch has not thought it up, another will concoct a worse yarn. There’s always a piece of information which can change a person’s perspective and stir their doubt bucket. Certainly the last few months have deluged us with new and often opposing information. Now there is apparently evidence that folks in North America were ill with Covid 19 as far back as December. That changes the whole picture. I’m arriving at a point where I don’t much give a damn about what any of it means. All I have is this moment and I’ll live it according to my conscience and as fully as I can so long as I am not endangering anyone else. That’s the best anyone can do, pandemic or not. “Someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to, while doing no harm.”

Poster Boy. Jack knew instantly that the new bed was HIS!

Last blog I mentioned the recent Michael Moore production, ‘Planet Of The Humans.’ Now videos have been posted which refute the claims made there. They point out that a lot of the information is severely outdated and skewed toward the sensational. Probably so. So are the ‘Think Green’ diatribes. One man’s truth is another man’s lie. It has always been so. So long as folks are urged to ask questions and can be inspired to take a personal responsibility about our world, perhaps the end does justify the means. It is not up to them to make a change, it is our personal obligation. Us, us, us! We need to get that into our Covid news-confused heads. Meanwhile, my dog Jack and I are going for another walk in the woods.

Mobile social isolation unit. I moved this beauty off the path before someone stepped on it. It was going as fast as it could.

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” Henry Van Dyke

Nooks Overlooked

It is a time of social isolation. Even the snails are doubling their shells. I’d stopped to photograph  lilies below and found this character hiding out.
The rabbits are already expert at avoiding Covid creatures.

I watched a presentation about flying a home-built gyro plane in the Florida Everglades. It was dream-like. This blog’s quote is something the pilot said in that video. I think it is profound as a metaphor about life, perhaps especially in these times of being forced to travel low and slow which as any pilot will tell you, is dangerous. There’s really not much to add to what has already been said. All the angles have been examined. Every possibility has been covered, many so dark and ludicrous as to be boggling. But then the ludicrous has become normal, even boring.

Something new. I assumed they were fawn lilies. It turns out they are yellow glacier lilies, usually found high in the mountains. These grow beside a stream beside a ditch beside an old railway siding, about 40 feet above the sea shore. How’d they get here?
Obviously, I’m impressed.
Spock Blossoms. I’ve forgotten the proper name of these weirdly wonderful alien flowers.
Even the back alley is ablaze.
Dogwood time again.
There’s plenty of pollen in the air. And it’s not a time to be sneezing around out there.

It is clear and calm this morning. If you listen, you can hear the dickey birds breaking wind. No, that was a squirrel! It is absolutely quiet out there. Not one distant blatting motorcycle, no vehicles of any sort. Once again, that Omega man feeling. Then comes the twitter of song sparrows and a chorus of cooing from the mourning doves. Ahhhh!

I found myself thinking “In like a lion out like a…. nope, that was March! Today is the last day of April. How’d that happen?” How time, despite the tedium, has whizzed us to here is amazing. A third of the year is gone! I know it’s Thursday, the neighbours have set their trash out. So, time to get my stuff together. Garbage day is not a great way to mark the passage of your life!

Hot Wheels. “How was work today honey?” No-one was hurt. My videos made it onto the evening news. The truck’s trailer was empty but wouldn’t it have been fun if it were full of popping corn?
All over but the drinking.
The Border from the “other” side. This spring has been spectacular for its flowers everywhere.
Bird orchard beside the tracks. These feral apples were planted by the birds or…were apple cores thrown from a train window back in the day when we still had a passenger service.
Upstarts

Jack and I continue to explore local nooks we’ve overlooked and sometimes I’m stunned to realize how this or that have gone unseen by me for years. And I arrogantly consider myself to be observant compared to most folks. What don’t they see? Off we go again to wonder as we wander.

Please turn your head and cough into your elbow. I’m delicate, and trying to hide  in social isolation.

If you can’t smell the flowers you’re flying too high.”

Covid 49

More damned flowers! Another camas bloom.
Yeah well…cheer the hell up, whether you like it or not. This is close to visual perfection.
It’s a new one to me. This single daffodil variation was growing in the forest all on its own.
Dunno! Further up the trail that same morning, another unknown flower blooms in solitude.

A joy of getting older is accepting that nothing lasts forever; neither good nor bad. This pandemic will one day fade into history until something new rears its ugly head. We’d nearly forgotten the Spanish Influenza. All things considered, in comparison, we’re getting off easy this time. Approximately twenty-five million died then and that was without the aid of air travel. We’ve forgotten all the other deadly viruses we’ve endured since. Today one viral carrier can go anywhere in the world within twenty-four hours. More folks than ever take vacation cruises despite all the illness that has been spawned aboard those monster incubators. I am guessing that there are now more cruise ships on the planet than there used to be ocean liners. Perhaps we’ll get up to Covid 49 when the planet’s population is killing itself off with something like toxic flatulence, which might be a viral mutation spawned by all the plastic and genetically modified food we’ve ingested. Imagine those face masks and the bottom filters we’ll scurry to invent. Whoo! Then we’ll look back to the good old days. All they had to worry about was Covid 19.

As flowers fade ferns reach out for the new season.
A cold sweat? Sweaty fungus. It’s supposed to be dry under there!

All things pass. I’ve recently lamented about how dry our spring has been. As I write the rain hammers on the skylight above me. The gas fireplace is guttering away in an effort to displace the damp. Jack is wisely in his bed, in a deep state of dog zen, a skill I’m working to acquire. I’m getting there!

Flora becoming earth, earth becoming flora. The eternal cycle of rebirth. Fungi help reduce a fallen alder back to the soil it grew from.

Mexico, which entered the early pandemic days with very low infection numbers is now raging with the virus, and of course, having to fend for itself. You can’t expect assistance from countries which can’t help themselves. Mexico already has huge social issues. With an insidious national presence of violent gangs, masses of corrupt bureaucrats and politicians, some days it seems to be all part of the same self-devouring monster. Journalists and sincere elected officials are regularly executed by one group or another and the poor masses of the country endure medieval miseries. But pandemics are great equalizers, respecting neither wealth or power, good or evil. Perhaps there are fairer days ahead.

Choices. Left or right? Either way is a decision which subtly affects the balance of one’s life.
Signs! After your horse’s what? In tense times it seems there are certain people who need to give orders. But…it’s not nice when horses leave their beer cans and snack bags laying around.

I love that country, especially its rural areas and people. I look forward to being able to return there. Yes, it has plenty of violent crime but if you drive there through the US, where there is at least, on average, one hand gun in everyone’s sweatpants, purse or vehicle, you’ve beaten the odds. Just keep your one mouth shut and both your eyes and ears open. That’s a basic rule of survival anywhere and perhaps something our politicians should work out. Please, no more medical suggestions, if even in jest, about ingesting disinfectants.

Third world industry…the hunter-gatherer-mechanic! Having no workshop I resorted to an abandoned piece of rail track in the woods to form some metal bits for my trailer. I found that beloved hammer sitting on the side of the road one day. One of the characteristics of a true sailor is to be an eternal scrounge.
Metalmorphosis complete. Give me a big hammer and a pipe wrench, I’ll repair the crack of dawn! And if it ain’t broke…I can fix that too!
The organic mechanic strikes again. My homemade folding camper trailer is complete. I’m ready for total social isolation. Now I’ve got to find a donkey to pull it.

The media does not give much press to Mexico, or Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, the smaller countries of Asia; we hear little of smaller Asian nations and nothing of backwater China. There may be little news other than the pandemic and frankly who cares about them when we’re struggling to look after ourselves. Sadly, folks who need assistance most urgently, even in our society, are the last to get it. Life is never fair.

Suspense. Who knows when the drip will fall?
One person’s weed is someone else’s flower.

Everyone is tense enough without deliberate provocation. Store clerks are testy, others surly and insular. I get it and have to work at not being reactive. Near closing time in a local grocery store I was challenged by a cashier. “How’d you get in here?” I responded in kind and our interaction spiralled rapidly. I’ve since tried to imagine her workday and feel badly. I broke one of my trusty “Four Agreements,” the one about not taking things personally. And so we learn, over and over.

The rare polka dot maple. After a little wind and rain the cherry blossoms are gone for another year.

Some folks have become maniacal about hand washing. I have always been suspect of public washrooms and would rather not wash my hands if it involves touching soap dispensers, taps, or drying devices. Who’s messed with that? I go so far as to handle toilet seats, doors and handles by using my sleeve as protection. The other day I was admonished. “ Hey, ya dint wash yer hands!” I replied, “Where I come from, our mothers taught us not to pee on our fingers.”

Wha dar muddle wi me?”

The race. Loser gets the bird. The rain draws them up and then off they go, one way or the other. These guys were all squishing along in different directions.
Then came the rain. Once the trillium flowers are wet, their end draws near for the season.
And in pink.
A berry is born. Soon there will be a bumper crop of salmon berries.
There will be plenty of berries to eat this year. Life goes on.

Don’t look down on anybody …unless you’re helping them up.

NUTS

You can’t have spring without a Magnolia tree in full, splendid bloom.
Feeling nearly faded as my flowers. I find a poignant beauty in fading flowers and that these perhaps should not have been picked at all, they deserved to be preserved in a photo.

I went to the grocery store yesterday (now a gauntlet indeed) and bought a pre-bagged sack of bulk mixed nuts. You can’t dip into the bulk bins yourself, you might cough. That leads to some obvious questions about bulk bins at the best of times and then there are the restaurants with buffets. And of course there the open markets in much of the world, where nothing is pre-packaged as it never has been since markets ever were. There are public washrooms, and water fountains and the Wailing Wall and the Blarney Stone and all those religious shrines which millions of strangers love to kiss…How the hell have we ever survived this long? Anyway this morning I took a handful of nuts and noted how the brazil nuts, cashews and almonds were on top of the peanuts.

So then: “Is life like a bag of nuts, the biggest ones rise to the top?”

Time to reload the hives and get the year’s honey crop in the making.

I am truly not in support of any political group or perspective, frankly my dear I think they’re all nuts. Some of the incredible stupidities we’ve seen in the past weeks bear that out and confirm the low datum of mass human intellect. If only, at the earliest rumour of this disaster, we had firmly stopped all international travel, perhaps things would be much different. Commerce remained more important than safety and here we are. I know I’m just a bog peanut backwoods boy but it is not space science to understand that if you close the barn door, chances are much better of keeping your piggies in and the wolves out. It seems simple enough. I am really weary of cynicism, even my own, but there has to be voices asking obvious questions. Frankly there is just too much baaing going on. But it’s Easter, so peace on earth and watch your blood sugar level. And beware the giant rabbit!

Popping out all over. What magic lets plants know when it is time to re-emerge for a new year?
The Hobbit Hostel. A favourite nook for me at the base of two conjoined maples.

The day outside is pristine. The sky cloudless, the air warming. There is just enough breeze to gently stir the bushes and let us know that indeed the planet still lives. All else is quiet. I had a horrid dream last night about some authority’s decision that all dogs had to be destroyed. Our pandemic was their fault. I firmly decided that I did not want to live in a world without dogs and…I leave the rest to your imagination. I awoke suddenly and had a hard time sleeping after. It seems wildly dark and irrational but I’ve come to expect the ludicrous and the biblically incredible. Jack is slumbering peacefully by the back door, so it’s time to try and return my brain to a default setting. Faulty is my usual mode so “Hi ho off to the woods we go.”

How many springs have these old beauties slowly grown another covering of new leaves?
It seems to be an especially good spring for Oregon Grape. the bright blooms are everywhere.

We went to our favourite spot but the local dog and gun club had taken over for the day. What better way to celebrate Easter? Plastic geese decoys, duck blinds, camouflage clothing, popping shotguns and bewildered dogs. They know what to do, in fact, they could probably teach the people a thing or two, but hell, it gets everyone out of the house despite current standing orders. Yep we were there too, albeit at a safe distance. Have your field, we’ll be back when you’re gone.

Not Easter Eggs. Button fungi adorn a slowly decaying log.
Easter leaf. Was it dipped like an egg?

Easter Monday dawns just as crystalline with warmer temperatures yet in the forecast. There is not a sound outside. Maybe everyone is….. naw c’mon! I recall a story about a man who came to believe he was the last person alive. To end his loneliness and despair he threw himself from the top of the tallest building in town. As he hurtled down past the third floor from the bottom he heard a telephone ringing. There is always hope, you’ve just got to hang on a little bit longer.

Is it possible? For a moment I mused that the snake in last week’s photo had followed me the twenty miles home. This beauty is about a foot long. It was sunning itself beneath the neighbour’s car.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

Say What?

Hairy Inukshuk. A positive aspect of the current pandemic is that there now appears to be families out walking together. Children are doing creative things like painting rocks and erecting little stone piles. It’s lovely.

I am just a dumb-assed average guy who is not entitled to dispense uninformed opinions about things like a pandemic. I know that I know very little. I understand also that I am free to challenge, at least for myself, the edicts and mantras of others who thrill at the notion of control over us. I tend to be reclusive normally so the idea of social isolation is not new or unusual. I’ve practised it often at sea and ashore and continue to be a loner. I don’t mind my own company at all. Crowds induce an instant psychosis for me so I avoid them if at all possible. So, I am not about to join arms with a few strangers and go staggering down a city street kissing all the door handles we come upon. My concept of common sense may be skewed by other’s standards, but it has kept me alive for several decades.

Social isolation. Smell the woodsmoke, the fresh bread, cinnamon buns, gingerbread and maybe a roasting piece of venison. Could do worse!
Beach houses looking into Ladysmith Harbour. The weather is bleak, cold and damp but the free air is bliss.
Proof of previous global warming, when glaciers melted away and left boulders like this.
All steamed up. Wet, dry, cool, warm, sunny then not. It’s spring weather. A neighbour’s roof dries after the last rain shower.
The toilet paper factory. I don’t actually know what sort of pulp this mill in Crofton produces, but it’s as stinky as any other paper mill… The smell of money some folks say.

I am blessed to live in a small coastal community where with a few minutes walking I can be in a forest that will surround me all the way to the west side of Vancouver Island and the open Pacific Ocean. I think there are only two or three logging roads to cross on the way. To be in some apartment in any city must be a horror even if you live up in the free air of an upper floor. You have the gauntlet of those possibly-infected elevators and stairwells to pass through to get down to the streets in order to see which stores are now closed. There are probably highly-stressed people in uniforms with hands on guns watching you carefully. Then you have to return home, up through the labyrinth of passages to your retreat where even your water supply depends on someone somewhere running a pump. Just think of what it might be like to endure this in a place like India or Syria. We are the lucky few. Dreary, depressed, flat-broke and in debt, plans and dreams shattered, we’re still doing alright so long as we don’t panic.

More coal flowers. Incongruously this forsythia bush grows alone among the brambles in the middle of the old coal terminal.
I spot my first Fawn Lily of this spring.
Then suddenly, they’re everywhere.
Purple delicates too.
And even more
Beach blossoms as yet another rain squall advances through the Gulf Islands.
Da-ad! Let’s go see what’s around the next corner.

There are plenty of movies about pandemics, there are many apocalyptic scenarios and of course the strangely popular zombie themes. The notion of the world we are now suddenly living in has fascinated and entertained us for a long time. We seen fascinated with doom.  Be careful what you wish for. Here we are. Sadly, our national leaders do not inspire a lot of confidence and so we all endure this terror with a sense of fear and rising panic. A US aircraft carrier captain has been dismissed for informing his massive crew that a few cases of the Covid virus had broken out in the very close quarters of the ship. He is punished for being responsible and respectful of his charges. Yep, military intelligence. And of course, there is the incredibly expensive US Navy hospital ship ‘Comfort’ sitting nearly empty in downtown New York. Well, I did not promise to not ask questions.

Singing a song of spring.

If there were squadrons of bombers or UFOs overhead, or masses of invading troupes in the street we could see something, some-one to push back against. A virus is something we cannot see or fight with any tangible effort other than the feeble measures we can think of. One day, one moment at a time, it is all we can do. Self-love and loving one another is a worthy endeavour many of us need to grasp or relearn. This is the perfect opportunity. And remember, don’t believe everything they imagine. Flower photos, for the time being I’ll stick to that.

The sage old one. Jack’s legs are getting wobblier but his eyes are bright and he is always up for another adventure.

…”They lived in a country where believing had taken the place of knowing.”

from ‘Stones From The River’ Ursula Hegi

It’s All Relative

Try to stay balanced.
We’re all on the fence these days!

The main street is nearly deserted. I pulled into one of many available angled parking spots across from the pharmacy. As I reached for the door-handle there was a blur in the spot next to me. A small car pulled in as if it were a brake test zone. The young woman driving was wearing a surgical mask. Had I been a second earlier I would have been mince. No mask would have helped me.

Cold front over the water front. An approaching mass of cold air wedges itself beneath the warm air ahead. All is calm and bright with everyone in social isolation. Any bets on how much longer that boathouse will survive?

There’s a weary old joke about a person who quits smoking only to be run over by a tobacco truck. We fixate on one peril and ignore several others. Think of all the near misses one endures while out driving on any road. You have no control over the other driver and what a single twitch of their hand could do. Danger is all around us, at all times, we cannot escape its presence even as we obsess about the perils of our present pandemic and all the social issues of isolation versus contamination.

Most of us would go completely around the twist if we lost our electronic and cyber web of information and distraction. I was on the phone yesterday with a friend from South Africa. He talked about my recent blog and the sad news of the wolf Takaya. He then related a similar story about a hippopotamus that went walkabout and was eventually shot. The story is about ninety years old but simply by googling “hippo shot in South Africa” I had instant access to several accounts of the legend of Huberta. It is truly amazing how the internet evolved so quickly to become the wealth of information (and lies) it is. Even more incredibly we take it all for granted, accepting whatever is presented as truth.

Behind my back gate.
Everybody now! Two days later.

Yesterday morning we awoke to the sound of a train on the roof. Actually it was a burst of rain and sleet which gave way to another sunny morning. The next onslaught of precipitation came just after Jack and I had launched ourselves on our morning wander. Of course. Like the few folks out with their dogs, we all respectfully maintained a two-metre radius and it is suggested that we not even pet each other’s canine for fear of transferring heeby jeebies that way. There are dark aspects to people’s behaviour certainly but that seems outweighed by the goodness and graciousness demonstrated by most but the symptoms of analytis are evident at the best of times and those folks put themselves in a place of auto-distancing by default.

Currently the currant bushes are in bloom.
Salmon Berries too

Lollygagging, remember that word? It sits on the shelf just after heeby jeeby, not far before malinger which is a bit before a box marked “Redneck Terms” which are often single-syllable four-letter words far more commonly used, especially in times like these by crusty old dudes like me. Folks will come to understand “Cabin Fever” if they don’t already. That in turn may erupt into a wild rage far more insidious than any virus. When we can all come up out of our lemming holes again, perhaps we’ll find the world a little better place with a newly re-found respect for each other and ourselves. How long those lessons last will be up to each of us.

Trillium Trivectis.
Oregon Grape
Looks like Eli is trying a comeback.
Face it. We’re all in the woods together.

This morning Jack and I were out and about in the cold crispy air and misty light of early morning. We met no-one else. There were not even any cars on the road. It seems very strange indeed.

Despite my cynicisms about media information here are three online items which might provide some comic relief, dark as it may be.

The first is from New York City where throngs of people crowded together on bridges and the waterfront to see the arrival of the US Navy hospital ship ‘Comfort.’ There are several photos which show folks with mobile phones held high, trying to record the moment.

The next is about the ‘Resolute,’ a small cruise ship in international waters off the coast of Tobago. It was accosted by a Venezuelan navy patrol vessel, the ‘Naiguta’ which demanded the ship allow itself to be forced into a Venezuelan port. Instead the ship, which had been built with an ice-breaking bow, rammed and sank the naval vessel. There were no lives lost and the story cheers me immensely.

And finally, a horrible story from Texas. On an interstate highway a tractor trailer load of toilet paper crashed and burned. Photos show flaming rolls littering several lanes. Hot wipes!

And so another day drags on, hopefully we all find something to smile about. I hope the spring flowers bring a little cheer.

Seasons past
Jack’s hammer.
He showed an interest but we’ve got too many rusty hammers already.
Besides, what if it is evidence?
No breathing, no nothing. This is a parking area on the waterfront where folks come to sit in splendid social isolation in their cars and savour the harbour view. Fear the fear.
Shy Perriwinkles
Have you ever pointed a camera at a crow? You’ve got to be quick. They are incredibly wary.
The bomber. A local company, Coulson Aviation, contracts water bombing services globally. This is a Boeing 737, which they have developed for bombing wildfires. Hopefully we won’t be seeing them this summer.
Coal flowers
These feral blooms grow a short distance away in the same abandoned coal pile.
May your path ahead be clear, level, verdant and full of light…with a few blossoms as well.

Humanity is not without answers or solutions regarding how to liberate itself from scenarios that invariably end with mass exterminations. Tools such as compassion, trust, empathy, love, and ethical discernment are already in our possession. The next sensible step would be to use them.”
― Aberjhani, Splendid Literarium: A Treasury of Stories, Aphorisms, Poems, and Essays